Malfatti: Easy Ricotta Gnocchi

January 14, 2009

For such an amazingly good dish it has such a pessimistic name: malfatti. In Italian, malfatti translates to "bad made." That doesn't sound very promising, does it? Kind of like the outstanding hazelnut meringue cookies we had the other night at Spinasse called "Brutti ma Buoni" (ugly but good). Contrary to their name, these little malfatti were about the prettiest little things ever - so much so that I think we should rename them belfatti (pretty made).

Unlike gnocchi, their dumpling cousin, malfatti are more "roughly" made: hand-rolled, then crudely cut without much thought to uniformity or perfection. But that's precisely what makes them so lovely - their provincial form and handmade taste. Because they're made mostly with ricotta and contain no flour (other than the flour used to roll them in) they result in light and airy pillows, a feat not so easily achieved in gnocchi making. In fact, if you've ever made gnocchi you'll find that more times than not they turn out more dense than you'd like, and you have to concentrate fiercely on the task at hand, making sure to not overwork the dough. Malfatti, on the other hand, are easy to make and hard to ruin. You can actually do other things as you gingerly roll and cut, like sing along to the opera piping out of your Bose and take sips of your Super Tuscan.


1 cup cooked, well-drained, chopped spinach
1 ½ cups Ricotta cheese
1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs or panko
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup minced green onions
1 tablespoon basil, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
Approximately 10 sage leaves

Drain cooked spinach and squeeze out extra liquid until very dry. Combine with all ingredients, except flour. Refrigerate 1 hour. Bring pot half full of salted water to a simmer. Drop spinach cheese mixture by tablespoons into flour and roll each lightly into long logs. Cut into 1.5 inch dumplings. Drop dumplings into the gently simmering water. When they rise to the top, remove with a slotted spoon (approximately 3 to 5 minutes). In a saucepan, heat butter and sage leaves until both are browned and sage leaves are crisp.  Spoon butter over malfatti and top with the crisp sage leaves. If preferred, top with more Parmesan cheese.



Thumbbook's picture

They look delicious and easy to make! Im definitely going to try this one :)

Michele's picture

Those sound like gnudi which is something I watched Giada De Laurentiis make. She said they are like nude ravioli. Just the filling without the shell. Do you think this is the same thing? They looks lovely and not ugly at all!

The Duo Dishes's picture

These look great!

colloquial cook's picture

Well done! I was going to mention the brutti ma buoni but you beat me to it! They rate high on my cookie-love scale.

pigpigscorner's picture

Looks really delicious!

helen's picture

I'm going to call them 'rustic'. They look absolutely toothsome!

ashley's picture

Wow, those look amazing, and Delicious too!!

maryann's picture

I think I'm in heaven :)

Lee's picture

Interesting little things. I have flopped gnocchi several times so when I stumbled on this yesterday I gave it a try. The first few just disolved when they hit the water - what a murky mess! then what I did was take each little log and roll into a small meatball like ball in my hands and they worked much better that way. I really toasted them up in the saute of butter and sage. Later when my potates were roasting I added a few to the cookie sheet with the potatoes for the last 10 or so minutes and they came out steaming hot and crispy. Snuck the little devils to BF as a "side of vegi" - he ate them!

mcheria's picture

These look great. I tried them at the Bocca di Lupo restaurant in London last week and they were amazing. So thank you for the recipe - I'm really impressed that they're that straight forward to make.